Opinions & Articles

January 18, 2017

Ibrahim Gharaibeh 

The term “political Islam” expresses the processes of contemporary formulation of Islam that began since the early nineteenth century, and provided a wide and extended system of applications, studies, institutions, groups and new systems that reintroduced Islam in a way that accommodated the economic, political and scientific transformations that prevailed in the West and included the world of Islam. Scientists, thinkers, professors, researchers and graduate students participated in it in alliance with political regimes, scientific, educational and economic institutions, and political and social groups; It led to a deep and complex sum of studies, curricula, programs, institutions and “Islamic” applications in behavior, culture, governance, education, media, banks, markets, goods, services and relations.

What is political Islam?

The term political Islam is commonly used, meaning political Islamic groups that work for the application of Islamic law and Islamic concepts and rulings through peaceful and/or democratic political participation, but it is a name that bears many other names than that. It means the application and the political concept of Islam, and this definition includes the existing Arab and Islamic political systems, which apply Islamic Sharia or play a religious-political role. It also includes extremist Islamic groups, whether they are peaceful or use violence; Because they are also groups that have programs and perceptions to implement and understand Islam politically.

This ambiguity and comprehensiveness in the meaning of the term has led to confusion and discrepancy in dealing with “political Islam”; Some governments and studies look at all Islamic groups; Armed, peaceful and extremist groups as one group, and others add to it Arab and Islamic countries that believe in the concepts and principles that Islamic political groups believe in. This confusion and ambiguity allowed for the lack of clarity in political and diplomatic positions on political Islam, and made governments deal with Islamic groups and concepts according to countries, regions, and political and ideological positions Without a clear or specific criterion for evaluating and reviewing the phenomenon.

Regardless of the social and realistic connotations of the term political Islam, as it is a reformulation and understanding of Islam in a contemporary way, it has established a new system of understanding and application in the world of Islam in which states and groups operate, and its influence extended to religious, educational and community institutions, and is based on the Islamicization of “Islamization” and religious legitimacy. All areas of life in governance, education, markets, media, behavior and the arts, so that everything else is not Islam or a departure from Islam, and present these comprehensive programs and applications in a clear practical guide that selects from traditional sources, and excludes philosophy, arts, vessels of spiritual and popular religiosity, and previous scientific and sectarian institutions.

All political systems and Islamic groups do not call themselves “political Islam” and do not prefer this label, and each group prefers its own name, which are labels, even if “Islamism” combines them; It reflects multiple and ambiguous concepts of self-awareness and self-awareness. It is also a vague and contradictory awareness, and it reflects the inability of groups to present a clear and agreed upon vision. It also reflects the difficulty, if not the impossibility, of providing a clear and agreed-upon label that reflects what it calls clearly and precisely, because simply there are multiple readings and understandings. Religious texts in an endless map according to the prevailing civilized, social and cultural situation at the collective and individual level as well.

But despite this ambiguity in Islamic ideas, recent events in the Middle East (the Arab Spring) have shown the power of ideas and their ability to cross national borders and influence individuals, states and societies, and if a social contract is a solution to existing crises and conflicts, it is “religion instead of Islamization.” In the sense that religion is inspiring values, principles and policies individually and/or socially, while politics and legislation are subject to social and moral rationality, expressed by people’s diligence according to legislative and general elections without claiming religious or political correctness, but rather in a political and cultural commitment to the possibility of error, which necessarily means that It is not possible in democracy, governance and politics to come up with solutions, principles and decisions that represent the truth that falsehood does not come from before it or from behind it!

The British Foreign Office provided a definition of political Islam as “the application of Islamic values ​​in modern governments, through participation in the political process, and in some cases this participation is tactical, not derived from a belief or commitment to democratic values ​​and processes, and the concept of political Islam can include extremist and opposition groups.” For democracy, or anti-Western and liberal.

A review of the data on political Islam reveals a set of opinions, beliefs and goals that make the concept broad and include a range of groups and individuals, some of whom are believers and are genuinely committed to the principles of democracy and liberal values ​​such as equality and mutual respect, tolerance of different religions and beliefs, and there are other extremist and intolerant views.

The British state has preoccupied the issue of political Islam with what Islamic political groups are, and has prepared two reports on this. One for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the other for the British Parliament. The report of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was not available, but the Parliament’s report was published on its official website, reiterating the debate about the Islamization of politics and the groups operating in this framework.

In response to Parliament’s question about the definition of political Islam, the British Foreign Office says, “The term Islam covers a wide range of non-violent movements and ideologies, and ethnicity also does not exclude extremist Islamic groups such as Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, but the ministry’s statement makes it clear that It is not helpful to apply a single approach in all circumstances, and the best is to deal with each case individually. He said that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s involvement with political Islam is part of its work depending on the country or place in which we operate.

The witnesses who were heard by the British Parliament presented various definitions that depend on the position of the witnesses themselves on political Islam, whether they are supporters or skeptics, and in many cases democratic and peaceful groups are combined with groups of violence and anti-democracy, and together they include the definition of “political Islam” or “Islamism.” Some witnesses said that they are groups that share the goal, even if they differ in the means.

Political Islam, democracy and liberal values

Although Western countries often announce their assessment of political groups and systems on the basis of their belief and commitment to democracy, human rights, and liberal values ​​that Western countries and societies believe in, they support, oppose, or turn a blind eye according to the interests and circumstances they value. On the other hand, the Islamic political groups, as well as the Arab and Islamic political systems, are not similar in their philosophy and position regarding the application and understanding of Islamic law. Rather, one group or one state presents different messages and positions. While some political systems fight Islamic groups harshly, they apply religious systems and ideas Not different from what these groups believe and call for!

The Parliament’s report was not concerned with understanding and evaluating the situation, but it jumped to the assessment of Islamic political groups regardless of the fundamental understanding of religion in politics, proposing three criteria to guide British policy in this area, namely, democratic participation, support and commitment to it, the rejection of violence as a clear and unambiguous basic obligation, and commitment Practical, philosophical and intellectual protection of rights and freedoms and social policies consistent with the values ​​of the United Kingdom.

The parliamentary investigation was limited to the Middle East and North Africa region, although the concept and existence of political Islam extends to other regions of the Islamic world, and it was also concerned with the experience of the “Arab Spring” and the events that followed it over the next five years that gave historically unprecedented indications and evidence about the behavior of political Islamists in power and opposition.

Conservative secular party. Despite the commitment of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Arab East to peaceful and democratic work, the books and ideas of Sayyid Qutb are still prevailing and inspiring the group, and they are anti-democratic ideas and the same ideas and principles that inspire extremist and armed groups.

Many political Islamists affirm their adherence to democracy, but many in the West and East view Islamist participation in political life as dangerous and undemocratic. The countries of the Middle East have witnessed many examples of Islamists’ participation in political life, as in Turkey, Algeria, Palestine, Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco, Iraq, Jordan and Libya. Extremist Islamic groups have criticized the Muslim Brotherhood’s participation in the elections as being under a secular banner! Islamic parties affirm their commitment to electing and voting in their internal decisions and choices, but their participation and commitments did not address ambiguity and fear of tyranny and conflict or assault on personal and social freedoms as well as political and democratic freedoms. It is not possible, of course, to exempt Arab and Islamic political systems from blame and responsibility for building and strengthening a social contract that represents A political and cultural consensus of the people, and it cannot also be ignored that developmental and economic failure leads to conflict and extremism! The problem with democracy in the Middle East is that the winner takes possession of everything, and this includes Islamists and others. The practical practices of Islamic groups showed diversity and differences in dealing with democracy, some were pragmatic and some were ideological. The Justice and Development Party in Morocco and the Tunisian Renaissance Movement showed wide flexibility in understanding Islamic ideology consistent with democracy, but doubts were raised about the Freedom and Justice Party in Egypt. The problem with democracy in the Middle East is that the winner takes possession of everything, and this includes Islamists and others. The practical practices of Islamic groups showed diversity and differences in dealing with democracy, some were pragmatic and some were ideological. The Justice and Development Party in Morocco and the Tunisian Renaissance Movement showed wide flexibility in understanding Islamic ideology consistent with democracy, but doubts were raised about the Freedom and Justice Party in Egypt. The problem with democracy in the Middle East is that the winner takes possession of everything, and this includes Islamists and others. The practical practices of Islamic groups showed diversity and differences in dealing with democracy, some were pragmatic and some were ideological. The Justice and Development Party in Morocco and the Tunisian Renaissance Movement showed wide flexibility in understanding Islamic ideology consistent with democracy, but doubts were raised about the Freedom and Justice Party in Egypt.

The British Parliament report notes that there is clarity in the structure of the Muslim Brotherhood at the national level, but there is ambiguity in the global organization, as it includes many groups from all over the world. The report notes that there is a contradiction between the group’s messages and its published literature according to the language used and the target audience.

However, there are cases in which the group seems to inspire violence, even though it did not directly participate in it, and it must be considered that it is difficult for a political or social movement to control all its members and activists under the provocation of the political authorities. It is likely (according to the report) that the nature of Islam supports the continuation of the overlap between religion and politics in the foreseeable future.

Some offer religious interpretations and approaches to democracy. Muhammad Sudan, Secretary of Foreign Relations in the Freedom and Justice Party, says: Shura is a fundamental and fundamental idea in the Qur’an. Other witnesses with regard to the Muslim Brotherhood argue that their view of democracy is the majority, and not a broad cultural process. On the other hand, the Ennahda Party in Tunisia and the Nour Party in Egypt affirm their keenness on the participation of all political currents and not the singularity of the majority, says Rafiq Abdel Salam, head of the Department of Foreign Relations. To Ennahda, his party adheres to the principle that governance in the transitional period should not be based on the majority, but on the basis of consensus and different trends.

The British Parliament heard witnesses who believe that Islamic political groups, although they may be democratic and not violent, are in contradiction with liberalism, in the sense of their undemocratic stance on social policies and rights. Gender and nationality, and some of the answers Parliament received from the Muslim Brotherhood were vague with regard to basic principles, such as penalties, and Ibrahim Mounir, the deputy guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, said that he supports the death penalty, and does not categorically reject punishments of flogging, beatings and amputations, given the penalties stipulated in the The Qur’an, about the rights of same-sex relations, said that we have not yet been able to have a sufficient discussion, but he believes in the right of the individual in his private life, but the answer in this matter cannot be no or yes.

Political Islam groups: ambiguity in ideas and organizations

Former Prime Minister David Cameron described the Muslim Brotherhood organization as secret and ambiguous, but the Muslim Brotherhood responded that secrecy was an option due to the ban and persecution that the group was subjected to. The group’s financing is based on members’ subscriptions and donations. Volunteer work in the group contributes to reducing expenses by a large percentage. The group is divided into basic units or cells called a “family” headed by a “captain.” Families are organized in an administrative area called a division, headed by a “deputy” division The group is centrally led by a Shura Council and Guidance Bureau. The relationship between the countries is coordinated by an international Shura Council, and there is one ideology for the Muslim Brotherhood in the world.

A contradiction and difference was observed between the responses and messages of the Muslim Brotherhood presented in Arabic and the others provided in English, while messages in Arabic carried incitement to protest and violence, the messages in English emphasized democracy and peaceful action, and in his written answer Ibrahim Mounir, the deputy guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, said that the group’s position on The violence is unequivocal and ambiguous, as the group rejects the use of violence, but it did not answer Parliament’s questions about death sentences, flogging, and amputation.

Political Islam is usually seen as planning to impose a strict understanding of Islamic law based on a literal interpretation of the texts, but Mortada Al-Sheikh, co-director of the Ibn Rushd Research Center, says that some Islamists offer an interpretation of Sharia that is different from the concepts of caliphate advocated by groups such as Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, and he said. Radwan al-Masmoudi The Tunisian constitution approved in 2014 did not include a reference to Sharia, and despite the accusations leveled against the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt of Islamization, the Freedom and Justice Party responds that the party did not provide a more restrictive interpretation before, and in general it is possible to observe realistic policies And other ideological wired political Islam.

It is noted that there is great diversity within political Islam, as the Ennahda party has tended to separate between advocacy and politics, and party leader Ghannouchi said that Ennahda is a purely political party, and Rafik Abdel Salam said in his answer to Parliament that the party views cultural and religious activities, as being confined to religious and cultural institutions. and civil society organizations, and Ennahda does not claim to speak in the name of religion.

Radical Islam is largely associated with marginalization, frustration and anger among young people, and some witnesses believe that there are alliances between the Muslim Brotherhood and extremist Islamic groups, such as Lester Crook, director of the Think Tank for Conflict, who notes that in a few countries such as Yemen and Syria, the Brotherhood and al-Qaeda are engaged in armed conflict, Alison Pargeter said that the Muslim Brotherhood in Libya allied with the most extremist groups. Ennahda is accused of tolerating extremist Islamist groups. Michael Marcus says that while the party was in power, it allowed extremists to operate and recruit followers and supporters, but these groups are now banned.

Witnesses believe that political Islam, even if it does not use violence, represents an incubator for extremist and violent groups and ideas, and the ideology adopted by political Islam develops the relationship of groups and followers to extremism, .. The relationship of the Muslim Brotherhood with extremism and violence remains ambiguous and unclear, and the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood has shown Officially its rejection of Sayyid Qutb’s ideas, and it cites the book “Advocates not Judges” written by Hassan al-Hudaybi, the second guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, which was published in 1969 in response to Sayyid Qutb’s ideas, especially his book “Milestones on the Road.” Ibrahim Munir stresses that the group does not use violence and does not approve of it for change Or national action, and that this position is unambiguous, but the reality of the situation and the study of the group indicates that al-Hudaybi has no great influence in the group, and his book “Preachers not judges” is hardly known, and on the other hand, the books of Sayyid Qutb or the books and ideas derived from him are widespread. And clearly impressive.

Post political Islam

The problem of political Islam is not only related to the attitude of groups towards violence and democracy, but it is an issue that concerns the relationship of Muslims to religion, the state, societies, and the organization of their lives and their spiritual affairs. Looking at the outcome of the official and collective Islamization processes, it seems clear today that it has plunged the Islamic world into a state of conflict, hatred and collapse!

It is no longer possible to look at confronting this situation in the world of Arabs and Muslims today in isolation from the Islamic system that created it, despite the adventurism that this entails. This is because political systems, groups, societies and companies will inevitably become in confrontation with oneself, but confronting extremism will not be effective or successful without this confrontation, and we have no longer for governments, societies and individuals but to stop what we consider to be combating extremism, which is nothing more than satire of extremists, or we add to it Reconsidering the system that creates our religious perceptions and applications, which we share with extremists and hardly differ from them in understanding and applying them in little.

The case is that all or most of what was done in the intellectual and ideological confrontation with the extremists turns into two results: net profits for the extremists, or makes the countries and their allies appear as if they are in a confrontation with Islam and not with the extremists! There is no longer an opportunity to get out of the cycle of hatred, extremism and violence but to re-understand and formulate the relationship between religion and life, individuals, states and societies in an intellectual system different from what states, groups and religious institutions have been used to since the early nineteenth century, and of course different from the system of social and political life and its relationship to religion as it was formed. It was before the nineteenth century.

The confrontation will, of course, be in a new code that reformulates the content and principles on which religious, educational, social, media and cultural institutions are based. It creates alternative and new strategies for religious content, its philosophy, goals and trends, and establishes a new intellectual, religious and social environment based on individuals and societies, not governments, institutions and groups, and on new relationships. And different between religion, the state, societies and individuals.

It is a blog whose idea and philosophy can be summarized in that it renounces hatred and establishes the relations of individuals, societies and the world on the basis of cooperation and mutual acceptance of all people, nations, civilizations and ideas, respect for pluralism and diversity, and raising the status of reason, philosophy, logic, scientific methods, critical thought, arts and creativity, and clearly and decisively distinguish between religious and human It presents itself on the basis of humanism, relativity, uncertainty, and permanent ability to review and correct, and not as from God.

This is inevitably followed by a reformulation of the issue of religion and the state, considering the political, economic and administrative systems, and educational curricula as human systems that are subject to interpretation, citation, revision and development, and scientific and human systems remain unholy and not religiously binding on the state and societies.

Then, at the societal and individual level, reconsidering all (Islamic) institutions and applications such as banks, schools, colleges, arts, culture, clothing, food, social behavior and lifestyle in order to transform them into unholy human systems, borrowing from the world and giving it also on the basis of exchange and competition, and reorienting popular Islam towards The spiritual and scientific direction, in which it is possible to help individuals and societies to acquire a religiosity that elevates the spiritual aspirations of the religious and teaches them religion on sound scientific bases, and to spare individuals and societies political religiosity or the political and economic exploitation of religion to be a spiritual and social resource devoid of interests and defects.

The political authority will lose a source of support and religious legitimacy, and it needs time to devote a new relationship with religion that is acceptable in society and among the religious, but in any case, this is no longer a great loss after the religious groups succeeded in transforming religious legitimacy to their advantage, and there is no longer room in reality. Other than sacrificing this (lost) legitimacy and working to establish a new and different political, legal and religious legitimacy.. and even if it is an adventure, there is no room but to engage in it.

Actors and observers may differ in their interpretation and condemnation of the religious policies existing in Arab and Islamic countries, but there is no room for disagreement that extremism and terrorism in its current state belong to the world of Islam and that what is outside this world does not represent a great challenge to states and societies.. There is also no dispute that extremism Terrorism is in a state of growth and spread, and they achieve many gains, whether in terms of spreading and increasing hatred or increasing supporters and supporters, or in the field of violence that mainly sweeps the world of Islam itself, and then extends outside it in bursts that do not harm the West as much as it has caused great harm to Arabs and Muslims, residents and settlers In the West, it is also not in dispute that the world of Islam faces major crises and challenges that push it to fragility and disintegration, and worse than that, it turns into a part that the world does not accept and the world does not accept either.

It is no longer possible to continue evading after these long years of confronting extremism and terrorism from an obvious and basic question: Why do extremism and terrorism continue to grow and spread? And how do we make sure that we are actually fighting extremism and terrorism, or that we are actually moving in this direction? And in the ideological, intellectual and cultural confrontation, there is also no room to escape from the basic question: How does the religious situation in the state and society serve reform and progress and promote the values ​​of tolerance, moderation and global participation (that we be part of the world’s security that accepts us and accepts it)?